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A Glorious New Chapter in China-Uzbekistan Friendship
 

By H. E. Xi Jinping

President of the People's Republic of China

Published on Uzbek newspaper Narodnoye Slove  

June 21, 2016

"Grass-covered land is lush green and snow-clad mountains are translucent and silvery," to quote a poem written by a Chinese envoy in Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) after his mission to Central Asia over 600 years ago. The magnificent landscape of Uzbekistan is familiar to and admired by the Chinese people since ancient times. I first visited your beautiful country in September 2013 and was deeply impressed by its distinct natural scenery, time-honored history and cultural heritage, and the hard-working and talented people.

At this fascinating time of lush green, I will once again visit Uzbekistan and attend the Summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Tashkent at the invitation of President Islam Karimov. This is a visit I am very much looking forward to.

The people of our two countries are diligent, courageous and honest. They cherish friendship and share similar views on personal dedication to the welfare of the nation and the world. Over 2,000 years ago, the ancient Silk Road connected China and Uzbekistan and has since witnessed the growth of two-way trade, mutual learning and people-to-people friendship. Zhang Qian in Western Han Dynasty (206BC-220AD), Xuan Zang in Tang Dynasty (618-907) and Chen Cheng in Ming Dynasty traveled to Uzbekistan as an envoy or for a stopover. Renowned historical and cultural figures in Uzbekistan such as Alisher Navoi, Mirza Ulugbek and Muhammad Al Khwarizmi are known in China for their works and thoughts. Central Asia is the meeting place of Chinese and Western cultures, and Uzbekistan has played an important role as a bridge of communication. Over the centuries, China and Uzbekistan have maintained close contacts and fostered a fine tradition of friendly exchanges, thus laying a solid foundation for the good-neighborly relations we enjoy today.

Uzbekistan is a major country in Central Asia. China views its relations with Uzbekistan from a strategic and long-term perspective. China was among the first countries to establish diplomatic relations with Uzbekistan shortly after its independence. Over the past 24 years, bilateral relations have stood the test of time and changes in the international landscape and kept a momentum of sound and steady growth. Our two sides have rendered each other firm support on issues concerning our respective core interests and achieved fruitful results in cooperation in various fields. 

Since 2013, President Karimov and I have stayed in close touch by way of meetings, phone calls and correspondence, and have developed good working relations and deep personal friendship. Our two sides have signed such important documents as the Treaty on Friendly Cooperation and the Development Plan for the Strategic Partnership (2014-18), thus cementing the political and legal foundation of bilateral relations. We are jointly building the Belt and Road, synergizing our national strategies, seeking innovative drivers for cooperation, and enhancing international coordination and security cooperation. With bilateral cooperation growing in both breadth and depth, China-Uzbekistan relations have entered a golden era of rapid development.

Jointly building the Belt and Road is a highlight and priority in our bilateral cooperation. In policy communication, our two countries have signed the cooperation document on jointly building the Belt and Road and are working on an outline of cooperation plan. China appreciates that Uzbekistan was one of the first countries to express interest in the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and has joined it as a founding member.

In 2015, our two-way trade reached $3.5 billion, up by more than 70-fold compared with the early days of our diplomatic relations. China has been Uzbekistan's biggest source of investment and second largest trading partner for three years. All four pipelines of the China-Central Asia natural gas pipeline system run through Uzbekistan. In February this year, our two sides completed the construction of the Angren-Pap railway tunnel, the longest of its kind in Central Asia and a new link in the transportation corridor connecting China and Central Asia. Both sides support the building of a railway linking China, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan and will reach out to the relevant country to make progress in the project. Our two countries have jointly established plants for the production of tire, PVC and soda, carried out cooperation in cotton processing, and registered initial success in the production of ceramic tiles, smart phones, leather products and shoes in the China-Uzbekistan Industrial Park. It is fair to say that important "early harvests" have been achieved in our cooperation on the Belt and Road.

Both China and Uzbekistan have a long history and splendid culture. People-to-people and cultural exchanges have been part and parcel of our bilateral relations. In recent years, the two sides have made fresh progress in student exchange programs, Chinese language training, sub-national exchanges, joint archaeological projects and translation of literary works. As a result of these, the friendship between our peoples has deepened. Cultural cooperation has brought our peoples closer. Thanks to our good collaboration, the first Confucius Institute in Central Asia was opened in Tashkent 11 years ago and has since produced more than 3,000 "ambassadors" promoting China-Uzbekistan friendship. The State Administration of Cultural Heritage of China, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and the Northwest University of China have worked actively with Uzbekistan on joint archaeological research and restoration, making important contributions to restoring the historical sites of the Silk Road. Just recently, the Uzbek edition of the Cat Country, a novel written by renowned Chinese writer Lao She (1899-1966) and translated by a Uzbek sinologist, has been published. I trust it will open another window for people in Uzbekistan to know more about Chinese literature.

China and Uzbekistan are a community of common interest and shared future featuring equality, solidarity and win-win cooperation. To pursue development and national renewal is the dream of both our peoples. Given the deep changes in the international landscape, slow recovery in the world economy and daunting tasks of development for all countries, to enhance our bilateral cooperation in all respects meets the trend of history and serves the fundamental interest of our two countries and peoples. We hope that China and Uzbekistan will make greater achievements in the pursuit of common development and prosperity.

-- We need to enhance political mutual trust and mutual support. The ancient Chinese philosopher Confucius said, "In his dealings with friends, one should be trustworthy in what he says." Political mutual trust is an important basis for the sound growth of China-Uzbekistan relations. We will continue to extend each other firm support on issues concerning each other's core interests such as sovereignty, security and development. China firmly supports Uzbekistan in its independent choice of a development path that suits its national conditions, understands and respects the measures taken by the Uzbek Government for national stability and economic and social development, and opposes interference by external forces in Uzbekistan's internal affairs.

-- We need to work together to ensure the success of the major initiative of the Belt and Road and explore broader space for cooperation based on mutual benefit. While strengthening cooperation in the energy and resources sector, we also need to explore other areas of cooperation, facilitate bilateral trade and make it better-structured. We should seek converging interests, deepen production capacity cooperation in light of local conditions and translate our economic complementarity into more tangible outcomes of cooperation.

-- We need to increase understanding between our peoples and deepen cultural, education, tourism, archaeological and sub-national cooperation to foster a greater sense of pride and confidence in China and Uzbekistan, both ancient civilizations along the Silk Road. We should leverage the two Confucius Institutes in Uzbekistan as bridges between our youth and nurture China-Uzbekistan friendship among future generations. We need to support cultural events such as the Chinese "Happy Spring Festival" and the Uzbek "Oriental Charm" staged in each other's country and bring well-received performances and fine artistic works to more people.

-- We need to implement the concept of common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security and deepen China-Uzbekistan law enforcement and security cooperation. It is important that we have a keen understanding of the security situation, step up information sharing, combat the "three forces of terrorism, separatism and extremism," drug-trafficking and other forms of transnational organized crime so that we can jointly foster a secure environment for peaceful development of the region and ensure the safety of our peoples and their property.

-- We need to enhance strategic coordination in international affairs and deepen our coordination in multilateral fora such as the United Nations and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). We should give firm support to each other's constructive international initiatives, exchange views in a timely manner on global issues such as global economic governance, energy security and water resources, and on regional and hot-spot issues such as Afghanistan and the situation in West Asia and North Africa to jointly uphold our strategic interests. China supports Uzbekistan in playing a bigger role in international affairs.

Another important part of my agenda in Uzbekistan is to attend the SCO summit in Tashkent. This year marks the 15th anniversary of the SCO, and this summit will be an important occasion for us to review past experience and plan for future cooperation. Over the past 15 years, the SCO, guided by the "Shanghai Spirit" featuring mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality, consultation, respect for diverse civilizations and pursuit of common development, has actively advocated a new type of international relations featuring openness, inclusiveness and win-win cooperation and contributed significantly to regional stability and prosperity.

The SCO members have signed and implemented a number of agreements including the Shanghai Convention on combating the "three forces" and the border control cooperation agreement, and held joint counter-terrorism drills on a regular basis. These efforts have effectively deterred transnational crime and terrorist and extremist activities in this region and diffused security risks for all member states. In areas such as economy and trade, transportation, energy, infrastructure, agriculture and people-to-people exchange, deeper cooperation under the SCO framework has advanced the members states' economic and social development and taken to people's heart the concept of good-neighborly friendship and mutual benefit. As the SCO starts to admit new members, its circle of friends is expanding to countries in Central Asia, South Asia, West Asia and Southeast Asia. As a result, the SCO's cooperation potential will go up significantly and its international standing and influence will also be on the rise.

As the rotating chair of the SCO this year, Uzbekistan has done a lot to secure tangible outcomes of cooperation in various fields. China stands ready to work with Uzbekistan and other member states and take the Tashkent summit as a new starting point to further enhance cooperation across the board so that the SCO will bring more benefits to this region and its people.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the independence of Uzbekistan, and I wish to congratulate Uzbekistan on that. Under the leadership of President Karimov, Uzbekistan has made remarkable achievements in its national development and gained greater international influence. The Uzbek Government has adopted a people-centered approach to ensure that economic growth will truly benefit the people. A number of national programs have been adopted such as the "Year of Youth," "Year of Healthy Child," "Year of Attention and Care for the Elderly" and "Year of Healthy Mother and Child." As a result, people's livelihood has been improving steadily and there is balanced development between urban and rural areas. Uzbekistan has embarked on a path of development that suits its national reality, and China wishes Uzbekistan even greater success in national development.

A Uzbek proverb goes, "A tree gets attention only when it bears fruits." China-Uzbekistan cooperation across the board has yielded fruitful results, and has benefited and won the support of our two peoples. I believe that in realizing our respective national development and rejuvenation, our two countries will join hands and write a glorious new chapter of China-Uzbekistan friendship.

(Xinhua News Agency June 16, 2016)

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